Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's called biology for a reason

I'm a pretty good teacher--I can train a young H. sapiens to recite the Calvin cycle in such a way that everyone, including the young H. sapiens, believes that she actually knows something.

That same young H. sapiens can graduate high school without having a clue that her food comes from the ground, that the water from her tap was once a raindrop, and that her waste flushed down the toilet goes somewhere.

I ostensibly teach biology, the study of life, but there are days when I think I am merely teaching acronymology, the study of Holy symbols--ATP, NADPH, DNA--worshiped for their ability to confer riches on the true believers.

You want biology? Hatch chickens in a classroom, raise them for a generation or two, spend a few hours each week to get to know them a bit, then slaughter their descendants as a final exam. Feed them seeds from plants grown on the windowsills. While feasting on the birds, discuss why we eat the meat but not the intestines, why chicken fat tastes so good but the feathers not so much.

If a child leaves my class knowing nothing about food, then that child has learned nothing about biology, no matter how well she does on the AP Biology exam.

I really would like to do this in class. 
The picture is of Gail, my sis-in-law. She looks happier than the chickens....


Malcolm said...


ncm11 said...

This is an awesome post. I'll definitely talk about why we eat the meat and not the intestines. Biology is often watered down to the basics of what we're required to teach. We need to explain HOW and WHY things are the way they are and maybe the students will retain something valuable!